, N’DJAMENA, Chad, Feb 13 – Nigeria-based Boko Haram Islamists carried out their first attack Friday inside Chad, killing five people in a strike on a village on the shores of Lake Chad, a security source said.
Chadian military spokesman Azem Bermandoa Agouna also confirmed the pre-dawn attack on Ngouboua, a village across the water from the Nigerian town of Baga.
The insurgents struck around 3:00 am (0200 GMT) after crossing the lake from Baga — scene of a Boko Haram massacre last month — in boats.
“They started firing on everything that moved. The military retaliated,” the spokesman said on national radio, adding the fighters then fled back towards Nigeria with troops “in hot pursuit”.
A security source speaking on condition of anonymity told AFP that four civilians, including the village chief, and one soldier were killed
The authorities gave a toll of one civilian — the chief — and one soldier killed, and four troops wounded and claimed two dead and five injured in Boko Haram’s ranks.
Chadian aircraft were scrambled to help repel the offensive, destroying the attackers’ vessels with strikes, the security source added
Two-thirds of Ngouboua, which lies on a peninsula about 18 kilometres (11 miles) from the border and had become a sanctuary for thousands of Nigerians fleeing the militants’ attacks, was torched in the onslaught, the source said.
Boko Haram has stepped up attacks since Nigeria’s neighbours decided last month to muster a 7,500-strong five-country force to take on the extremists. The planned contingent was later boosted to 8,700.
But while the insurgents have made several forays into northern Cameroon, and more recently southeastern Niger, Chad — the first of Nigeria’s neighbours to send troops across the border to fight the militants — had, until now, been spared attack.
News of the attack in Chad coincided with reports of further attacks by the insurgents within Nigeria, where general elections initially due on Saturday have been postponed by six weeks over the violence, until March 28.
At least 21 people were killed in two separate attacks Thursday on northeastern villages near the major city of Maiduguri, a community leader and a witness said.
“They (Boko Haram) killed 12 people in Akida village and nine others in Mbuta village during a raid,” said community leader Mustapha Abbagini.
A witness to the attack in Mbuta gave the same death toll.
The attackers first struck Akida, which is some 25 kilometres (16 miles) from Maiduguri, while villagers were sleeping. After setting homes and businesses on fire, the insurgents left and attacked Mbuta, Abbagini said.
Mbuta resident Hamidu Bukar said the attackers accused the villagers of “spying for military authorities”.
Also Thursday a female suicide bomber blew herself up at a crowded market in the town of Biu, in the south of Borno state, of which Maiduguri is the capital. The city has a population that has swollen to roughly two million because of displaced people seeking safety.
A civilian vigilante helping the Nigerian army in the counter-insurgency and a source at the town’s hospital both said that the death toll had risen from seven to 11 after the blast.
“Four more people, all of them adults, died at the hospital here in Biu while receiving treatment,” said the vigilante, Abor Kabiru. A hospital source confirmed that 11 bodies had been identified.
The death toll could increase further, with health officials working to establish the identities of at least two other people blown apart by the blast.
Boko Haram, which already controls vast swathes of northeast Nigeria, has ramped up its bloody, six-year insurgency in the past few months.
The conflict has killed more than 13,000 since 2009 and become an increasing regional threat.
In mid-January, Chad’s President Idriss Deby Itno sent soldiers to Cameroon to help counter the threat from the group.
Chadian aircraft carried out several days of airstrikes against Boko Haram’s positions in the Nigerian border town of Gamboru before sending thousands of troops into the town to rout the militants.
The Chadians succeeded in wresting the town from Boko Haram but were left reeling a day later after the Islamists took the fight back across the border into Cameroon, killing 19 Chadian and Cameroonian troops.
The retaliatory attack on the Cameroonian village of Fotokol also claimed the lives of 81 civilians, according to Cameroonian authorities.
Last week, the Islamists also carried out their first deadly raids in Niger to Nigeria’s north.
The militants struck the border town of Diffa five times, after Niger announced it planned to send 750 troops into Nigeria.